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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is This MY Great Great Grandma?

Richard's genealogy question is about a discrepancy for his great-great grandmother:
My great great grandma was born in Sept 1854, she came to the US in 1860. She was married in 1873. Up to that point there is no problem, after that period there is. From the 1880 census onward she has a completely different middle name from her birth record. She even named her children this name, and I am extremely confused. I have been doing genealogy for a long time but never encountered this and it concerns me. Is this possible and what would be the reason why she doesn't use her real middle name? Could someone have told her the wrong middle name? She came here as child and she probably never saw her birth record from England, why would she need to if she was here as a child? So I am thinking that her stepmother told her wrong (her mother died or they were divorced, and I can't find her...that is a mystery for another day!). Her dad was there so why wouldn't he get it right? Do you think I need to ask myself if I have the right person (everything fits except that middle name!)? Thank you very much for your kind assistance, it is greatly appreciated!
ASK OLIVE TREE GENEALOGY response: Hi Richard. You have quite a challenge and interesting discrepancy on your hands. You haven't told me what steps you've taken to prove this is the right ancestor. So I need to ask you but first let me call the woman whose birth record you have "A" and the woman in the census from 1880 on "B"

1. Have you found a marriage record for Great Great Grandmother "A" whose birth record you have?

2. Have you checked to be sure that great great grandpa didn't marry TWO women with the same first name but different middle names? In other words perhaps "A" is NOT the same woman as "B" who you say gave her children that different middle name... Perhaps "A" died between 1873 and 1880, and grandpa remarried to "B"

3. Have you looked for an obit for "B"? Perhaps her maiden name is given and that will prove or DISprove if she is the same woman as "A"

4. Have you checked the marriages of all the children of great great grandpa? They should give their mother's maiden name and again that will allow you to see if "A" and "B" are the same person

You asked me why a woman would not use her "real" middle name - assuming that "A" and "B" are the same person and that she decided to use a different middle name, what could be the reasons? (by the way what ARE the two names she used??)

- perhaps she didn't like her middle name
- perhaps she didn't know it and as you suggested, perhaps her step mom told her it was something else
- don't get too hung up on "why didn't her father set her straight" because sometimes men do not know their children's birth dates and it would not surprise me if a middle name wasn't known.
- since you didn't tell me the two different names (I am extremely curious!!) is it possible that one is a nickname or variaton of the other? For example Delia and Bridget are the same name. Helena/Magdelena/Lena are interchangeable too. There are many names like that.

So please do comment or write to me privately and tell me the middle names used, maybe I can help further.


  1. Here's another thought
    She was given 1 middle name at birth and another middle name when baptised (maybe named after a god-parent). So her name is:
    First Name
    Middle Name (birth)
    Middle Name (baptism)
    Maiden Name
    Married Name

    ~ Skip Murray

  2. Also take another "middle" when confirmed in RC church, not done anymore but up until the 1960's.

  3. Along the same lines: My grandfather's baptismal has the middle name "Michael" and "M" is the middle initial on his 1900 census entry.
    But all other records we have, including death and marriage have his middle name as "Joseph".

    Speculation in the family is as Skip mentions above - baptismal name vs middle name.

  4. I'm curious too. Hope you share the conclusion.